SyNAPSE chip aspires to be as powerful as the human brain without using much power.
IBM on Thursday revealed a computer chip designed to process information in a way that emulates the human brain.
Described in Science magazine, the Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) chip is a "neurosynaptic computer chip," capable of processing information over a network of 256 million programmable synapses and one million "neurons" that communicate via electrical bursts, like the neurons in the brain. SyNAPSE chips are based on a computing architecture that IBM calls TrueNorth.
TrueNorth departs from the traditional Von Neumann computing architecture that has dominated the industry since 1946. In a SyNAPSE chip, each core contains memory, computation, and communication circuits and is designed for parallel processing. This helps avoid the bottlenecks in traditional computer designs that arise from limited connections between systems.
SyNAPSE chips are event-driven rather than clock-driven. They run cooler than other chips because they aren't running all the time. They're designed to work with one another, tiled together. Arranged in this manner, the chips can communicate in parallel to create a failure-tolerant mesh supercomputer.
When IBM debuted a prototype in 2011, SyNAPSE had a single core. The new second-generation model has 4,096 neurosynaptic cores, but consumes only 70 mW while operating. That's somewhere from hundreds to a thousand times less than the chips found in most desktop and laptop computers today.
Packed with 5.4 billion transistors, SyNAPSE boasts a power density of 20 mW/cm2, roughly four orders of magnitude less than current conventional microprocessors, IBM said.
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